Estate Planning and Probate
Our estate planning and probate group can assist you with some of the most important decisions of your life. We can advise you regarding protecting your assets during life and planning for the distribution of those assets upon your death. We also assist executors and trustees in settling estates or trusts and represent parties in will disputes and probate proceedings.
We can provide you with a comprehensive estate plan tailored to your personal needs. Your estate plan may include a simple will dictating who should act as your personal representative or executor and how your assets should be distributed upon your death. For others, a revocable living trust that allows your estate to avoid probate and transfer your assets upon your death may be appropriate. Whether you choose a will or a trust, you will want additional estate planning documents such as the following:
Durable Power of Attorney
This document will allow you to select a person to handle your business, financial and personal affairs should you become disabled or incapacitated and unable to handle such matters yourself. The disability that triggers this document can arise from a number of different situations, including illness (such as a stroke or Alzheimer’s disease), injury, accident, or old age.
Medical Health Care Power of Attorney
This document will allow you to select a person to make future medical health care decisions for you so that if you become too ill or cannot make those decisions for yourself the person you choose and trust can make medical decisions for you.
Mental Health Care Power Attorney
Like a Medical Health Care Power of Attorney, this document will allow you to select a person to act as your agent and make mental health care decisions for you in the event that you are incapable of making such decisions.
Declaration of Living Will
This document will direct the medical treatment you are to receive in the event that you are in a terminal condition, such as a irreversible coma or a permanent vegetative state, and unable to participate in your own medical decisions. This Living Will may state what kind of treatment you want or do not want to receive.
Pour Over Will
A Pour-Over Will is a document used in conjunction with your revocable living trust. The Pour-Over Will essentially transfers assets that you had during your life, but for were not placed into your trust. Sometimes assets that you acquire after the creation of your trust are not properly titled in your trust’s name, but a Pour-Over Will ensures that those assets are placed into your trust upon your death and distributed as you planned.
Trust and Probate Administration
When someone dies, whether they had a will, trust, or no estate plan at all, that person has an “estate” made up of his or her assets and that estate will have to be administered. Probate, through the local court, is the process to administer the estate of a person who died with a will or with no will (i.e. intestate). We can assist you with the probate process by filing all the necessary petitions, notices, orders, affidavits, and letters of appointment to establish probate and appoint a personal representative (i.e. executor) to administer the estate. Once the probate estate is established, we can advise you as to the process of administering the estate, paying or disputing claims against the estate, making distributions, complying with all fiduciary duties, and ultimately closing the estate. Administering a person’s trust upon his or her death involves the successor trustee named in the trust and has many of the same duties and obligation of a probate estate, but is instead done outside of court.
Estate litigation includes a number of potential situations. A will contest is where someone wants to challenge the validity of the will, often on the basis that it was not properly executed, witnessed properly, made under duress, or made while the testator was not of sound mind. Excluded heirs or devisees may want to challenge the administration and distribution of an estate or the appointment of a personal representative. Creditors of the estate may have claims that need to be made on a timely basis, or they may need to file a petition for allowance of such a claim or a separate complaint against the estate’s personal representative. Rightful heirs or devisees may need to commence proceedings to recover improper distributions made by the personal representative. We can assist you with these or other potential estate litigation matters.